A loyal opposition: gone too soon.

Author:Congram, John

AT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY in 1988 I was appointed editor of this magazine. With restructuring of church offices looming on the horizon, the Administrative Council had requested that all new appointments be interim appointments. However, the Assembly decided to exempt the appointment of the editor from this decision.


Before allowing my name to stand for editor I asked several people the same question: "What is the role of a church magazine in the church?" The answer that stuck with me over the years and, in many ways guided my decisions, was the response of A1 Forrest, then the editor of the United Church Observer. He said the role of a church magazine was to be the loyal opposition. It was not always an easy task to be both critical of what the church said and did and still be loyal.

I soon discovered that when the church began to restructure church offices. I wrote what I considered a bland editorial stating that while restructuring could be a useful tool we should not be overly optimistic that it would solve all of our challenges and problems. Soon afterwards I received a visit from the chair of restructuring who declared that I was not a team player.

Over the years the magazine has had a useful role as a helpful critic of the church. It is something the average church member and the staff of the church often find hard to understand. There is the assumption among some that the church, as a "divine" institution, should be above criticism. Recently the sins of the church that have come to light should have finally disabused us of this notion.

When I was appointed editor some felt I was too liberal. After serving a few years, others believed I was too conservative. This encouraged me to believe that I was at least fair. Ken Bagnell, former editor of the Imperial Oil Review, told me he enjoyed reading the Record because it always tried to be fair to all views in the church. I think this was what the first editor of the Record, James Croil, had in mind when he wrote in 1872 that he saw no reason why "The Presbyterian Church in Canada may not hope to establish and maintain a model magazine, one liberal enough to give expression to every shade of opinion consistent with essential principles, catholic enough to commend itself to Christendom and cheap enough to find its way into every Presbyterian family."

During my 14 years as editor we operated with a staff of about half the size of the present staff of the Record. Though small they...

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